Pacific Lutheran 42, Rowan 13

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Tim Lax
Despite giving up 70 pounds, PLU senior linebacker Tim Lax brought down Rowan tight end David Sadowski en route to nine total tackles and three for loss.
Photo by Pat Coleman,

By Pat Coleman

SALEM — Pacific Lutheran's team of destiny rolled past Rowan's team of futility as the Lutes won Stagg Bowl XXVII 42-13.

Pacific Lutheran (13-1), which was making its first trip to the championship game since entering Division III, outran Rowan's bruising defense and capitalized on numerous Prof mistakes to keep Rowan 0-for-Salem.

Rowan's miscues started on its first play from scrimmage, as Lutes linebacker Tim Lax knocked the ball out of Prof freshman quarterback Mike Warker's hands and junior linebacker Mike Mauss fell on it at Rowan's 31-yard line. The "Big Play" Lutes needed only one play to get into the end zone, a pass from junior quarterback Chad Johnson that senior wideout Todd McDevitt turned into a touchdown.

"Some of our worst fears were realized with our turnovers. I knew coming into the game that turnovers would be a big key, and they were," said Prof head coach K.C. Keeler. With all of their blitzes and stunts and their three-man line, their quickness was difficult to handle."

Although Rowan (12-2) bounced back and put seven points on the board later in the first quarter, PLU took a 27-7 lead into halftime and extended it to 35-7 before Rowan put its final points on the board in the third quarter.

But of course, Pacifc Lutheran and head coach Frosty Westering weren't playing against Rowan. They were playing against themselves.

"We didn't play Rowan today," said Westering, 72. "We can't control what Rowan does in the game, we can only control what we do. You deal with only what you can control."

What they controlled was the clock -- nearly 34 minutes' worth to Rowan's 26. The Profs, who averaged 193.5 yards rushing the first 13 games, ran for a Stagg Bowl-record worst minus-63 yards. Freshman Antwine Simmons led Rowan with 3 yards rushing on one carry.

On the other side of the ball, a similar disparity. Rowan had allowed only 48.8 yards per game, but Pacific Lutheran ran for 120 yards, led by Anthony Hicks' 73 on 22 carries.

"There is just one thing I can say to explain why I ran the ball so well: the offensive line. The line opened up some big holes for me today," said Hicks. "On screen passes I would just follow one of the guys down the field until he broke off and made a big block."

Hicks was also the leading receiver with four catches for 78 yards.

Forced to abandon the running game, Rowan opted for short passes and screens. Warker finished 26-for-46 for 264 yards and a touchdown but threw two interceptions and was sacked five times by the smaller Lutes defense.

"You have to give them credit for what they did defensively," said the freshman quarterback. "They stopped the run early and forced us to pass. They blitzed a lot and there were times when no one was open and I had to take a sack."

Warker started taking sacks shortly after he was whistled for an intentional grounding penalty on the Profs' second possession. After playing nearly mistake-free ball in the 24-17 overtime win at Mount Union, Rowan committed nine penalties for 70 yards and turned the ball over four times.

"I think Rowan had a bit of a letdown after its big win over Mount Union last week," said Westering. "Psychologically they may not have been at the top of their game today, and we took advantage of that, because we always come into a game ready to play, no matter what the circumstances or who the opponent."

NOTES: PLU punter Seth Berghoff suffered a season-ending injury with a torn knee ligament in the third quarter. Placekicker Scott Sarrenson finished the game with four punts for an average of 33 yards in relief of Berghoff. ... Taman Bryant had 13 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, setting the Stagg Bowl record for most catches in a game. Hicks' 11 postseason touchdowns were a playoff series record. ... Rowan allowed 14 points in the first quarter after having allowed only 13 points in the first quarter all season.